Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Written evidence from Blaby District Council (ARSS 08)


Blaby District Council welcomes the opportunity to have greater control over the development of its area. The Council considers that it is best placed to understand the needs and desires of its communities and that housing requirements imposed from a National or Regional level may not fully appreciate local circumstances, desires and constraints that exist within Blaby District. Regionally imposed targets have not given Local Communities adequate opportunity to become engaged in the process of developing housing targets.

Notwithstanding this broad support, the Council wishes to highlight some concerns associated with the "immediate" revocation (and subsequent abolition) of the Regional Plans—particularly in relation to housing delivery.

1.    The revocation of housing provision figures (within Regional Plans (RSS)), coupled with the retention of a requirement to provide a five year supply of housing (as defined in Planning Policy Statement 3) and the presumption in favour of residential development where a five year supply cannot be demonstrated (paragraph 71 of Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3)) may result in uncertainty.

2.    The "Question and Answer" guidance issued by CLG on 25 June 2010 (accompanying CLG announcement revoking Regional Plans) identified that Local Authorities may use "option one" figures as a housing target in the interim period before more robust evidence is gathered. There is some ambiguity as to whether "option one" figures refer to the level of development sought by Local Planning Authorities as part of the submission to the Regional Plan or the level of development included in the draft Regional Plan (considered at Examination). The latter level of growth being that supported by the section 4(4) Authority (Leicestershire County Council). This should be clarified.

3.    Government announcements have indicated that Local Authorities have the ability to determine their own housing requirements. This has raised considerable expectations amongst Communities that the level of growth contained within the RSS (which is perceived by many as too high) could be reduced. Notwithstanding this, the guidance from CLG indicates that any alternative figure must be robust as it can be tested at examination. The extant Planning Policy Statement three indicates the sources of data that should be used to inform housing need. It is possible that the identified need arising from such sources could exceed the targets in the previously abolished RSS (even if they are derived "locally"), this could result in animosity from Local Communities if they perceive that even greater numbers are being imposed.

4.     Blaby District Council has struggled to meet its housing targets in recent years. It is likely that the main factors influencing slow housing delivery are the international economic downturn and credit crunch rather than the failings of the Planning system. It is possible that too much emphasis could be placed on the role of RSS targets in suppressing housing supply. There is concern that revocation of the RSS may further reduce housing delivery as developers are cautious about submitting schemes in the absence of clear housing requirements and guidance.

5.    The Regional Plan not only contains policies relating to housing numbers, but also sets out important strategic guidance relating to distribution of development, employment, flooding, transport, climate change and renewable energy. The revocation of RSS has resulted in a detailed policy vacuum on these topic areas.


There needs to be clarity regarding the "incentives" (New homes bonus (NHB)) to encourage new housing development:

Whilst the level of incentives to be allocated appears to be based on a multiplier of the Council tax achieved from new housing development, it is unclear whether monies will be given to the communities/neighbourhoods that are directly affected by development (for example the Parish/Town Council whose area is affected by the proposal); whether the money is to be paid to the Local Planning Authority, or; the money is to be distributed in the same way as the current Council tax with the majority going to the Upper tier authority. It is apparent that the direct "local" benefits are reduced in the latter options.

There needs to be further clarity as to how the NHB can be spent. It is understood that it will not be "ring-fenced" and could be absorbed into the wider Local Authority budgets. This may suppress the overall Council tax requirements per capita, but may not be of any direct benefit to local communities affected by development.

It is unclear if the NHB payments will be paid at the grant of planning permission, start of construction or completion of new dwellings. It is also unclear if payments would continue for a period of six years from formal announcement of the scheme or a rolling six year programme.

One of the primary reasons for revoking Regional Plans was to return decision making to local councils (including on housing numbers). As mentioned above, the housing aspirations of local citizens, neighbourhoods and communities may not match those that are being identified as part of the gathering of "reliable evidence". If the housing numbers sought by the local community are significantly below those identified by evidence it could raise false expectations, particularly communities that are subsequently incapable of being defended at Planning appeals and examinations.

September 2010

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